The Fallacy of French Immersion

Now I am a Canadian, but am not bilingual.  I can barely order pizza with my Grade 10 French when in Quebec.  I would like to speak French better than I do, but becoming bilingual just was not on the priority list as I worked my way through high school, and the many years of post secondary education required to become a surgeon.  French immersion only made its way onto the scene as I was in high school.  It sounded like a great idea at the time.  I forgot about it until I had moved back to Canada and had school age kids. I got a long survey last year from our local school board asking me my opinion of French immersion programs.  They got a shortened version of what you see below in the comments section of the survey.  I have had no response from them.

The way teaching and encouraging bilingualism is handled in the Canadian education system is a crime really.  Why is it that in the Netherlands, virtually 100 % of kids graduate high school with the ability to converse, pretty well, if not completely fluently,in English?  English isn’t even an official language of the Netherlands.  I am just going to come out and say it.  French immersion is a total waste of time and money and is basically a failed experiment in language education.  I bet (and this is a guess), but I bet if you corrected for kids’ intelligence and language ability, the difference in the number being able to converse in French for those who do French immersion versus those who do the standard curriculum up to the end of high school (including advanced French up to Grade 10 say), would be virtually ZERO.  And I would also bet that if there was any minute difference once you get out to a couple of years after high school it would disappear completely.  But the horse is out of the barn, and any government is going to be reluctant, to say the least, to cancel the program.

Have a bilingual country and want your young citizens to grow up speaking both official languages fluently?  This is the way NOT to do it.

  1. Set up a quasi separate school system where parents have to be heavily invested in the fact that their kids are doing the immersion program, including providing out of area transportation. This will lead to cognitive dissonance ensuring that they will trumpet the benefits of French immersion to anyone within hearing distance.
  2. The above will ensure the majority of children enrolling in immersion programs will be intelligent with parents of high socioeconomic status. All ESL, ADHD, autistic, learning disabled, dyslexic, behaviourally challenged or low income children will not be able or encouraged to participate. If these children do participate they will rapidly drop out.
  3. Having allowed public funding of Catholic schools (also not something I support), now double the cost and administration to provide French immersion to Catholic students separately from public school students.
  4. Et voila, you have created a two tier public taxpayer funded education system. Go French Immersion! (sarcasm there)
  5. Do not collect any data on these kids of their long term French fluency or literacy rates, you wouldn’t want anybody to know the billions of dollars that have gone to waste on the privileged few who do take French immersion. If you do collect data, suppress it or spin it in your favour. We both know what it would show.

Of course, the above is exactly what has been done across Canada. Just a suggestion here. Why don’t we ensure that ALL kids graduating high school in Canada have a basic fluency and literacy of French and not just a privileged few? What are we doing wrong? What aren’t we doing right? And why aren’t you (the education experts) telling ME why I should enrol my kid in French immersion, ideally with some good data to back it up and not education by anecdote? Surely it would have been sorted out decades ago that French immersion is even a useful strategy to pursue? Cause the fact you’re not talking about it leads me to conclude it is not.


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